Hands-on: Nintendo 3DS XL

When Nintendo mentioned that their E3 2012 show was just part of a bigger plot to announce more in regards to content and hardware no-one expected the 3DS XL to make an appearance. Everyone thought there would be a redesign of some sort with that important ‘second analogue slider’… instead we got the younger and stauncher brother of the 3DS. G3AR was lucky enough to get some hands-on with it last week. So is it worth shelling out for a new 3DS XL and dumping the older one? If ever you owned the DS XL you’ll have a good understanding as to what you’re letting yourself in for. The screens are both bigger, people with large hands finally rid themselves of hand cramps and the portability is thrown out the window as it’s just about the size of the Vita when closed. Saying that, the 3D looks great on the larger screens and somehow Nintendo have worked their magic in ways that do not make the game look pixelated or jagged. The images are very smooth. Unlike the DS XL unit the corners are rounded and the unit easily slips into the pockets of your pants (we tried stealing one… the bulge gave it away). The first noticeable upgrade was that the unit now comes completed with a matte finish. That means that you don’t have to carry a cleaning cloth around with you any more for wiping off those measly fingerprints.

The next thing we realised was that the stylus is now positioned in a user-friendly area – to the right of the handheld. Just like that of the DS XL. Say goodbye to the dodgy extendable stylus as this now even longer stylus won’t shrink when you need it most as it is a solid stylus. There’s another small addition. The green ‘3D’ LED light is no more. Playing a game with that little green light shining in your eye was enough to drive most of us at G3AR mad. Thankfully it must’ve driven someone at Nintendo off the cliff as well… or are they just saving money? The feeling in your hands is no more than perfect, though that circle pad attachment (which we’re yet to see) will just about morph this into a Wii U tablet controller when in your hands. The buttons, D-Pad and shoulder buttons all have a very similar feel to those on the 3DS while the Select, Home and Start button have a squishier feel to them than the current set of buttons on the 3DS.

There are some concerns. Current 3DS users will find that their 3DS leaves marks on the top screen after long periods of being closed. This happens because of a raised barrier around the bottom screen of the 3DS and this raised piece is still there on the 3DS XL. We’re not sure if Nintendo’s somehow fixed this, but we’ll only know for sure once we have more time with the XL. If you bought the 3DS for its mobility then this larger cousin is definitely not for you. It really is a beefy piece of tech that will most likely be played at home more than anything else.

Those little niggles is not enough for us to not want the 3DS XL yesterday. That extra hour of battery life or so helps the decision that much more. Core reassured us that the 3DS XL will be at selected stores at the end of this month, in time with the UK launch, though stock will be very limited. Best you get your hands on it if you want to XL.


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  • Jarred

    I really like the look of the big screens, but my small hands mean I don’t really need the bigger console. Battery life extended by an hour is good, but no second circle pad is a let down.

    Are there any spec changes with the device at all?

  • Jarrod Lane (@Noodleza)

    I agree, XL is an awesome idea, but no 2nd circle pad is a fail. No matter the extra battery life and bigger sexier screens…

  • Lonthor

    Yeah don’t think I’ll be trading my 3DS for the XL any time soon. If they had added a second circle pad to the XL then thats a different story…